Prospect Profile: Craig Italiano, P

The Oakland A's selected a number of high school pitchers in the 2006 draft. Of the ones they selected, none throws harder then Flower Mound High School product Craig Italiano. Paul Rathert profiles the hard-throwing righty in this Prospect Profile.

Craig Italiano, RHP, 6'3'', 190

































Throwing gas. Bringing the cheese. Tossing BBs. Bringing the heat. No matter what phrase you use when describing a pitcher who throws a fastball with high velocity, it applies to Craig Italiano. Drafted by the A's in the second round of the 2005 Amateur draft, Italiano was the first of six high school pitchers taken by the club between rounds two and seven.

Italiano was taken immediately before his Flower Mound High School (Texas) teammate, shortstop and fellow right-handed pitcher, Paul Kelly. Flower Mound had a stacked rotation of senior starting pitchers that also included Jordan Meaker (taken by the Astros in the 9th round) and Brandon Gaviglio, a left-hander that went 18-1 prior to his senior season and is now with Oklahoma State. Italiano was thought to have one of the best fastballs in the draft by any pitcher, high school or college. Oakland A's Scouting Director Eric Kubota called him the "best high school arm in the country."

Scouting Report

Italiano pitches between 93-95 MPH, will touch 96, and can run it up to 98. His fastball has good late life and has late boring action that will run in on the hands of righties. On the mound, he looks a lot like a thinner Troy Percival. Standing 6'3" and weighing 190 pounds, his wind-up, leg kick and delivery are very similar to that of the former Angels closer and his velocity could be similar if used as a reliever who doesn't have to pace himself to pitch five or more innings.

Italiano has also improved his once slurvy slider, which has the potential to be a plus pitch, into more of a 9-3 or 10-4 slider with more break than loop. His fastball/slider combo coupled with his velocity has also helped him to draw comparisons to Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge. As with most of the A's young arms, Italiano will also be working on adding a changeup to his repertoire as he develops.

If he can become more adept at throwing both his changeup and slider and improves on locating his fastball and adding more consistent movement to it, he could be very difficult to hit. Italiano had a positive debut in the Arizona Rookie League going 1-2 with 27 Ks to eight walks. He allowed 20 hits in 19 innings, but it's a good sign that he had more strikeouts than hits allowed while keeping his walks down. Though his ERA was 6.74, he didn't allow any long balls.

2006 Outlook

Italiano will begin 2006 as an integral part of the young, talented starting rotation at Low-A Kane County along with fellow high-school pitchers Jared Lansford and Vincent Mazzaro. Lansford has the major league pedigree and athleticism, Mazzaro has the deceptive delivery and heavy fastball and Italiano lights up the radar-gun.

There have been some concerns about Italiano's delivery because he short-arms the ball. He has had elbow problems and missed a start in high school because of shoulder inflammation. The A's may try to work on his mechanics to see if he can maintain his velocity with a lower-stress delivery.

He will have every chance to develop as a starter, but may have a bright future as a flame-thrower out of the pen. Either way, he and current A's starter Rich Harden could have a few radar-gun battles during bullpen sessions in Oakland sometime in the next few years. Italiano has all the tools to make a productive transition from thrower to pitcher while moving through the A's system.

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